The process of offset printing has been used for over a century to create high volume printed media with high quality and repeatability. According to Helmut Kipphan in his Handbook of Print Media, “Compared to other printing methods, offset printing is best suited for cost-effectively producing large volumes of high quality print in an economically sound manner that requires little maintenance.” While the basics of the process haven’t changed much, technology has played a part in increasing the capabilities and performance of offset printing.
Today, computer generated images and text are output directly to offset printing plates through the use of a laser system that “engraves” the graphics and text onto the plate. Previously, computer graphics were output as a photographic film, which was then used in turn to create the printing plates.
Some companies are using the best of both worlds by merging offset printing and digital printing methods in a single process. Mark Smith of the Printing Impressions blog notes that some companies are using standard digital printing to include personalized information on marketing media, then using the traditional offset printing to add static graphics and text. The variable text can be printed in black and white while the static graphics and text are printed in full color.
Offset printing is currently the most popular production process for high-volume print projects because of the combination of quality and efficiency that this method offers.